When Leo Sgovio took a job at a Toronto travel company in 2007, he asked a cousin who worked there, “What is the highest paying job in this company?” When he learned it was in SEO, he started reading about it and earned a certification as an SEO specialist with expertise in Google and Bing ads. By 2010, he earned another certification, this time in Adobe Analytics. His job gave him lots of practice in helping websites rank on Google and in using Google AdSense.
Knowing his way around the world of internet ads paid off. Sgovio, who’d started his career in the fashion industry in Southern Italy, secured sponsorship to stay in Canada from his employer. He eventually started selling supplements through a brand called Lovetica on Amazon in 2015; he still owns 50% of the business, having sold it to a partner. Lovetica brings in about $700,000 in annual revenue, he says.
“I needed to do something on my own,” he recalls. “If I have to be here far from my family, it had to be worth it.”
His business took off, thanks in part to a creative approach to pay-per-click advertising. When selling a product for troubled skin, for instance, he directed ads to women who were buying diapers, aware that many women have skin problems post-pregnancy.
“Amazon was still in its infancy,” he says. “It was easy to build a brand on Amazon. Then I started speaking at conferences. I was able to bring all the knowledge of the digital marketing world. The Amazon space all of a sudden became gold.”
From 2017 to 2017, he worked as head of innovation for Viral Launch, a software, aimed at Amazon sellers, that lets companies track their competitors online. Then, in 2017, he started Convomat, a tool that helped Amazon sellers automate promotions on Facebook, Instagram and Google.
“What really helped me to build this business, was I worked with big companies before,” he says. “Especially when it comes to dealing with people behind big desks and closing big clients, if you know how the directors and managers think and what they want, it’s so much easier to close a deal.”
Convomat brings in more than $2 million annually, he says. He runs that business with one contractor.
It is one of the latest examples of the growth of million-dollar, one-person businesses. In 2019, there were 43,012 businesses with no employees except the owners that made it into the $1 million to $2.49 million in revenue category, up from 41,666 in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Another 2,553 brought in $2.5 to $4.99 million in revenue, and 388 earned $5 million in revenue and beyond. (I have not found data tracking these businesses by revenue for Canada).
“When you put in passion, eventually money comes,” he says. “I did a lot of work for free and helped brands launch products. Eventually that comes back to you.”
Sgovio’s latest venture is an affiliate marketing and e-commerce platform for internet sellers. It is built around a card game that features kids versus parents.
Sgovio’s advice for other entrepreneurs who want to build high-revenue microbusinesses? “A lot of entrepreneurs want a one-person business,” he says. “The issue with them is they get distracted. They start outsourcing a few things right away. They never really learn the business. They lose focus on what really needs to be done.”
He advises that entrepreneurs master the operations of their businesses early. “Before they start hiring and outsourcing, they should spend a little more time learning exactly what it takes to get there,” he says. “If you want to make $1 million, you break it down by day. If you really struggle getting something done, that is the only time you go and hire someone.”
Once he learns the processes in a given business, he creates a standard operating procedure (SOP), detailing how he wants it done. He uses the tool Loom to record the videos.
“Then I have a library of videos,” he says. “I can show it to the next person who joins. This is so much easier.” As he has discovered, making the most of technology can take a business a long way.
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